With Billie Jean King leading the roster of attendees, more than 70 guests dialed in for the first WTA Legends & Friends virtual event on Middle Sunday of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships.
The focal point of the occasion – hosted by former French Open champion Sue Barker on a day off from her role as anchor of the BBC’s tennis coverage – was the presentation of the Georgina Clark WTA Mother Award to celebrated coach and mentor, Judy Murray.
A much-loved figure in tennis, Georgina Clark was the WTA’s Vice President for European Operations and Worldwide Tour Director. The award named in her honor recognizes women who’ve made a significant contribution to the culture and emotional life of the WTA family, worked to improve the sport for all, and gone above and beyond to help those less fortunate.
Former recipients include Ann Haydon Jones, Judy Dalton, Gladys Heldman, Françoise Dürr, Ingrid Lofdahl-Bentzer, Youlia Berberian-Maleeva, Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Chris Evert – who presented this year’s award to Murray.
Clark was the first woman to umpire a Wimbledon final (Evert vs. Martina Navratilova in 1984). As a working mom, she raised five children in her own family, but on the WTA Tour she was also known as "Mother Superior" for the support and guidance she gave to players.
“I was 17 when I left the UK to live and train in America, and Georgina was always there,” Barker said. “She was your sounding board, your shoulder to cry on. She would give advice, even on boyfriends … I just wish I’d listened more. In short, Georgina was loved by generations of players.”
In a recorded message, Hall of Famer Mary Pierce echoed Barker’s sentiments.
“Georgina Clark was an amazing woman – so inspirational, so encouraging,” Pierce said. “She was by my side during a crucial part of my life and had a huge impact, personally and professionally. So, I’m very grateful for Georgina – and grateful that this award exists in her name.”
In addition to raising and coaching her sons, Jamie and Andy, to the very top of the game, Murray has nurtured countless players, from the grass roots through to national level under Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) programs. She also served four full seasons as captain of Great Britain’s Billie Jean King Cup team – motivated, in part, to raise the profile of female coaches.
More recently, Murray developed a popular program called Miss Hits, to engage young girls in physical activity through tennis, while building a female workforce in coaching and administration. Related, as WTA Community Ambassador she has worked with WTA Charities to take clinics to major tournaments in Singapore and China, as part of the WTA’s Come Play initiative.
“Georgina Clark was Superwoman and Judy, so are you,” Evert said. “You’re an educator, an advocate, an innovator, a leader, a supporter, a mother and a friend. And in my mind, there’s no bigger accomplishment than raising sons who support, respect and treat women as equals. Our sport is very lucky to have you.”
After a successful junior career and a brief foray onto the professional circuit, Murray decided to pursue her university studies. It was only years later that her true tennis destiny would reveal itself.
“When I started out as a volunteer at Dunblane Sports Club, Jamie and Andy were toddlers and I really just did it to get some exercise,” Murray told the group. “But I found that I loved to share my sport and I soon realized how much you could make happen by building an army of like-minded women.
“I was starting from scratch, and just went step by step. I really had no idea that as a family we would do what we have done … but we’ve had an absolute blast. I remember Georgina as firm, fair and fun – this is such an honor.”
Other speakers at the online ceremony included Murray’s proud father, Roy Erskine, Great Britain Davis Cup captain Leon Smith, Laura Middleton from the Miss Hits program, Ann Austin, Director of WTA Charities, WTA Legend Martina Navratilova and Steve Simon, CEO and Chairman of the WTA.
“Judy is a trailblazer who believes in dreaming big, but she also has amazing attention to detail and above all, an astonishing work ethic,” said Smith, who is jokingly known as Murray’s "third son." “She also never lost sight of making tennis fun for everyone; that’s always been at the core of it. She’s one of a kind.”
Middleton highlighted Murray’s “gentle approach to encouragement and building confidence in the team around her,” while the WTA’s Austin described her as the “epitome of motherhood: She knows how to adapt to whatever is needed and leads by example.”
Elder son Jamie Murray, Kim Clijsters, Anne Keothavong, Heather Watson and WTA President Micky Lawler were among the luminaries who sent video tributes to the honoree. Tour alumnae in the virtual room included Pam Shriver, Mary Carillo, Ilana Kloss, Peanut Louie Harper and Katrina Adams and members of Clark’s family were also present.
“Judy Murray is so full of passion and purpose; she just brings all of herself to everything she does,” WTA founder King said. “She makes tennis better for all of us.”